The Daily Dish

High-low mix strikes edgy balance at Deep Ellum

By Cathy Huyghe
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I went for the french fries.

“They’re legendary,” a friend of mine said, referring to the malt vinegar and fleur de sel version at Deep Ellum in Allston. I’d agree — referring not just to the taste but also to that high-low mix that characterizes so many of the dishes on the menu.

Deep Ellum manages to balance high and low — whether you’re talking about the items on the menu or the interior decor or the drinks list — and that balancing act conveys a sense of edginess that appeals to a wide swath of customers.

Deep Ellum is a brunch joint and a late-night bar. (Kitchen hours are 11am to midnight, plus Sunday brunch starting at 10am.)

In the morning, you can go with a breakfast burrito or duck confit hash.

Late at night, stop in for a cocktail — or go with Veuve Clicquot or a sparkling white wine from a single-serve can.

Deep Ellum’s menu is well-edited and carefully designed. (The only thing that’s really huge about it is their beer selection: 28 on draft, 80 bottled.) It’s not an all-things-to-all-people menu, but with dishes flavored intensely and variously, they leave the customer happily skirting Deep Ellum’s edge.

Cathy Huyghe writes the WGBH Foodie blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, in which Cathy explores myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

Resveratrol the old-fashioned way

By Cathy Huyghe
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There’s not a wine drinker among us who hasn’t heard of the potential health benefits of resveratrol — you know, the chemical compound found in the skin of red grapes and, it follows, in red wine as well. The possibility of resveratrol having anti-aging effects and cardiovascular benefits is just too tantalizing, and it’s been a hot topic in the scientific community in recent years.

Makes for great dinner conversation over a bottle of cabernet sauvignon, yes?

Well, call me old-fashioned but I prefer to get my resveratrol the way Bacchus intended. As popular as it may be in supplement form, I’d rather find it in my glass. So long as there’s a good red to drink, and I’m happy and among friends, I figure a long and healthy life is headed my way anyway.

I’ll leave research to the scientists — including some of our neighbors over in Technology Square in Cambridge — who’ve seen a tough week for resveratrol-related studies.

Imagine this. A group of scientists at Sirtris Pharmaceuticals decided to get up-close and personal with the chemical composition of red wines. Not because it’s happy hour, and not because they prefer red over white. They’re doing it because it’s their job.

Intrigued? Well, in 2008 Sirtris was acquired by GlaxoSmithKline, and GlaxoSmithKline has continued to research a proprietary version of resveratrol called SRT501. That is, perhaps, old news to some of you.

The new news, reported on by a number of sources this week, is that the clinical trial of SRT501 has been halted due to possible safety concerns. It’s a setback, to be sure — but it’s all part of the research process.

And it’s certainly no reason to set down the syrah.

We may not have discovered the fountain of youth just yet, but the right glass of wine certainly can feel like it. And perhaps we needn’t look for it at all.  Just remember the words of Oliver Goldsmith: “I love everything that’s old: old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine.”

Cathy Huyghe writes the WGBH Foodie blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, in which Cathy explores myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

Reducing your handicap on high-alcohol wines

By Cathy Huyghe
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Given the choice between an 11% abv (alcohol-by-volume) wine or one that’s 15.5%, I’m much more likely to go for the one with less alcohol. It’s not that I’m a lightweight – I can handle the alcohol – but more often, it has to do with the sweetness of a non-dessert wine that such high levels of alcohol manage to convey.

Fortified wines — such as sherry, port, and vermouth– are another story, because alcoholic spirits have been intentionally and traditionally added. But I feared that my preference for lower-alcohol wines in general handicapped me when it came to fortified wines.

Take Cognac.

At first, when I took a sip of it, I managed to inhale at exactly the wrong time so the aroma – the highly alcoholic fumes – reached my nose and my palate too soon, interrupting the taste and leaving me with the unappealing impression of a hygienic solvent.

Which was not such a good thing.

So I did what any eager learner would do. I sought out opportunities to inform myself about the subject in question. In this case, “informing myself” meant tasting as many Cognacs as often as possible, and that practice did, in fact, reduce my handicap on high-alcohol wines.

Here was the meat of the “lesson plan,” pieced together over several weeks of tasting with friends, at home, and at public tastings at wine shops around town.

    * Frapin Grande Champagne V.S.
    * Frapin VIP XO
    * Grand Champagne Château Fontpinot

Here was the catch: my handicap (that is, my negative reaction to the high alcohol) lessened in inverse proportion to the price of the bottle in question.

In other words, I liked the more expensive cognacs the best.


The VIP XO, for example, at $199.99 per bottle retail, was rich and structured and long on the finish. (Some people call it “masculine” though I have no idea what that means.) It was easy on my nose and very smooth going down without any of the raspy heat of examples I had tasted earlier.

So what was the takeaway? What was the lesson of this experiment?

The lesson, fortunately, is not to buy only very expensive bottles of Cognacs.

The lesson, rather, is to keep tasting, keep learning, keep differentiating, and keep experimenting until something – like the Frapin VIP XO – clicks into place.

It’s an exercise, this “try, try again” thing – otherwise known as reducing your handicap.

I’m game.

Cathy Huyghe writes the WGBH Foodie blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, in which Cathy explores myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

Finding Champagne in unexpected places

By Cathy Huyghe
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There’s a shop on Newbury Street called Fresh that sells skincare products, soaps, and perfumes. It is not a place you’d expect to find the chicest wine tasting in town, but that is exactly what’s happening there tomorrow night from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

The link between skincare and wine?

At Fresh, it’s called Citron de Vigne. It’s a line of soaps, lotions, and perfumes that were inspired by the Champagne region of France. “Inspired by” means that the soaps and lotions are infused with a citrusy scent. “Inspired by” also means that the perfumes are formulated with a sparkling, effervescent aroma similar to what you’d find from a bottle of Champagne.

That’s where the wine tasting comes in. With a focus on the component grapes of Champagne, that is, specifically pinot noir. Jo-Ann Ross, certified specialist of wine and founder of J Ross Wine, will lead a casual, intimate tasting of wines from Champagne and Burgundy, where the pinot noir grape thrives.

See for yourself how inspiring that grape, those wines, and Citron de Vigne can be. Just check with Fresh for times and other event details.

Cathy Huyghe writes the WGBH Foodie blog. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, in which Cathy explores myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

Essen! Jewish Food in the New World kicks off Sunday

By Cathy Huyghe
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Western Massachusetts has its share of attractions, both natural and cultural. A fair bit of the cultural attractions are facilitated by an organization called Museums10, a consortium of galleries and museums ranging from the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art to the Smith College Museum of Art to the Emily Dickinson Museum.

Museums10 is on the radar of foodie folks these days for two reasons. The first is called Table for 10: The Art, History, and Science of Food, a months-long festival of cooking classes, demonstrations, lectures, and literary dinners. Most of the events take place this summer and fall — hitting just about all of the institutions involved in Museums10 — and it kicks off this Sunday.

Which brings us to the second reason foodie folks are paying attention. Essen! Jewish Food in the New World opens this Sunday, May 16, at the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst. The exhibit explores the idea that kitchen pots and grocery shelves chronicle the tale of the American Jewish experience from the early 20th century to today.

The full schedule of events also includes a series of paintings of jam-filled doughnuts and a public art project that transforms a traditional mobile food cart into a visual and culinary moveable feast.

Cathy Huyghe writes for the WGBH Daily Dish blog. Read new WGBH Daily Dish posts every weekday, where you can explore myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

Warm Chicken Breast Spinach Salad with Champagne-Lychee Vinaigrette
By Ming Tsai

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Serves 4

3 large naturally raised chicken breasts, julienned
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 large shallots, sliced
1 pint sliced button mushrooms
1/4 cup fresh lychees, halved
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup Champagne
Juice of 1 lemon
Organic baby spinach
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Canola oil, for cooking
Crusty bread, for serving

In a large saute pan over medium heat coated lightly with canola oil, add chicken, season and saute until cooked through, about 4-6 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate. Add about 2 tablespoons olive oil to pan and add shallots and mushrooms, season and saute until softened, about 2 minutes. Add lychees and Dijon mustard, deglaze with Champagne and reduce by 75%. Whisk in remaining olive oil, add lemon juice and chicken, and check for flavor. Pour contents of pan over spinach in a heat-proof bowl. Toss salad, garnish with freshly ground pepper and serve with crusty bread.
Chef Ming Tsai is the host and executive producer of public television series Simply Ming. Each week, Simply Ming brings mouthwatering recipes inspired by the combination of East and West into homes across the nation.

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